Health campaigner Melissa Vining says system is in 'a state of crisis'

A Southland widow who is continuing her late husband's crusade to improve healthcare for all says the current system is at crisis point.

Melissa Vining says she's speaking up for those on the front line who are too scared to, fearing they could lose their jobs.

It's almost three years since Melissa Vining's husband Blair died of bowel cancer.

"My husband used his last 11 months trying to ensure better healthcare for all New Zealanders and the healthcare is at a state of crisis, it's worse than it was," she said.

Staff shortages have forced Southland Hospital's paediatric assessment unit to close on and off for the past three weeks.

"I've been getting contacted by many patients and staff with real concern about the staffing levels at Southland Hospital," she said.

A staff member who wants to remain anonymous said "we are in dire staffing crisis".

"As a staff member that has been there over 20 years, staff are crumbling, breaking down every shift, despite continually giving it their all to keep the patients safe," they added.

The staff member told Newshub some patients are having to be flown to Dunedin Hospital for care because there isn't enough staff at Southland Hospital to look after them.

In a statement, Te Whatu Ora Southern said it's working hard to meet the health care of patients, deferring some services and utilising locums.

The Prime Minister said it's a global issue.

"The health reforms are also designed to make sure we can move people around the system to get the care they need no matter where they are in the country, even if there is an experience of a shortage in one particular part," Jacinda Ardern said.

But that's taking its toll.

"When people are diverted to other hospitals they are also away from family support," Vining said.

"I just really wish that the Health Minister would come and see how critical it is."

A sector on life support.